U Visas were created through the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act (VTVPA) of 2000. The legislative initiative was enacted to encourage victims to report crimes and contribute to investigations and prosecutions regardless of immigration status. If you are an undocumented immigrant, an U visa may be an option as it provides a pathway to a green card.
U visa is a benefit to non-citizens who cannot gain lawful presence in the United States as long as they are victims of a qualifying crime and helpful to law enforcement during the investigation and/or prosecution. The VTVPA was not only enacted to strengthen the investigative abilities of law enforcement agencies but to protect the victims of crimes without the risk of being removed from the country. A non-exhaustive list of qualifying crimes for the U Visa beislow. Please note that the elements for each crime are state by state specific.
- Abusive Sexual Contact
- Domestic Violence
- False Imprisonment
- Female Genital Mutilation
- Felonious Assault
- Fraud in Foreign Labor Contracting
- Involuntary Servitude
- Obstruction of Justice
- Sexual Assault
- Sexual Exploitation
- Slave Trade
- Witness Tampering
- Unlawful Criminal Restraint
- Other Related Crimes*^
*Includes any similar activity where the elements of the crime are substantially similar.
^Also includes attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit any of the above and other related crimes.
U Visa Process and Timeline
To begin the U-Visa process, the non-citizen must first obtain a U-Visa Certification stating that he/she was the victim of a qualifying crime and that the non-citizen assisted law enforcement in the investigation and/or prosecution. Note, that the U-Visa Certification is only valid 6 months from the date of certification by the qualifying law enforcement agency. Hence, the non-citizen must file a Petition for U Non-immigrant Status within 6 months. If the non-citizen has any inadmissibility issues, a separate waiver should be filed concurrently with the initial U-Visa petition. Due to the complexities of a U-Visa petition, it is highly advised that non-citizens seek legal representation for assistance.
Congress has established a cap for the number of available U-Visa to 10,000 per fiscal year. This yearly cap has created a backlog, leading to current wait times to a minimum of 4 years. Please note that processing times fluctuate regularly and may lead to longer or shorter wait times. For more details about this process and how it applies to your specific case, please schedule a consultation with the Cipolla Law Group.
U Visa Benefits
Once a U-Visa petition is approved recipients are given nonimmigrant status to live and work in the United States for no longer than 4 years. Recipients may then later adjust status to become a legal permanent resident after 3 continuous years of presence in the United States. Immediate family members of U-Visa recipients may also be eligible to live and work in the United States as derivative U-Visa recipients. Those same immediate relatives can also receive waivers through the U-Visa.
U Visa Time Limitations
It’s important to note there is no statute of limitations regarding the time frame in which the crime had occurred. Federal legislation specifically provides that victims may be eligible for a U-Visa based on helping past investigations, this includes submissions for victims in closed cases. In the case that a child is a victim, parents can apply as “indirect victims” if they provided assistance to law enforcement when the principal victim is too young to do so. It’s also important to consider that victims do not need to be present in the U.S. in order to be eligible for the U visa and may even apply outside the United States.
Why hire us?
Cipolla Law Group has extensive experience in U-Visa petitions. Our Chicago Immigration lawyers are compassionate, understanding and skilled at providing customize service to meet the needs of every unique U-Visa case. Contact us for a confidential consultation for your U Visa today.